Flexibility Stretches: Are You Causing Your Body Harm?

by Jenny Lee April 04, 2014

Flexibility Stretches before a workout have commonly been known to increase circulation, improve range of motion & prevent injuries. While there has never been a great deal of evidence to support that stretching before a workout prevents injuries, recently trainers, as well as medical providers are saying quite the opposite.Woman doing flexibility stretches


Richard Cotton, the national director of certification at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has many people re-evaluating their workout regimens. “Muscles may actually lose flexibility when they are overworked. Somewhat like what happens when you continually stretch a rubber band,” says Cotton. Are we wearing out our muscles before we even begin the workout?  “If you overstretch your muscle and then demand a power activity, it makes all the sense in the world that it doesn’t have the power of force that it would if it hadn’t been stretched.”


If fitness has been an active part of your lifestyle, you’ve probably have been told “stretching is extremely important before exercising.” If flexibility stretches are frowned upon, then what about the concept of Yoga? Aside from the methodical disciplines practiced through various techniques, Yoga is known for it’s slow, controlled movements and stretches. The answer to this question is the difference between dynamic stretching and static stretching. Dynamic stretching is controlled, allowing you to stretch to the limits of your range of motion. The Asana or the Yoga poses begin with deep breathing, concentration and slow and controlled dynamic stretching. Static stretching, on the other hand, involves no movement. You simply stretch and hold the position. Many trainers are now saying, save your static stretches for the end of the workout. Warm up lightly, perform your workout, and then stretch after.


So, are we beginning to see a shift towards more of a dynamic stretching warm up rather than static stretching? “I recommend a gentle warm-up to stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves,” says Cotton. “So when preparing for a workout, it makes more sense to focus on warming up the body rather than simply stretching muscles.” Athletes, such as gymnasts, spend a great deal of time performing dynamic flexibility stretches to warm up their muscles, before vigorous workouts.


We are also beginning to see a trend in “mobility stretching.”  Crossfit athletes and swimmers are utilizing these stretches before and after their workouts to open up shoulder joints by using a stretching band or increasing mobility in the hip and knees by performing timed squat holds. Runners are performing mobility stretches by using a band or a foam roller to improve ankle dorsiflexion, important for ankle flexibility and speed.


Personally, I don’t think flexibility stretches are going to be eliminated from any type of workout. However, they may be a little more specific as to what type of stretches performed based on the programing of the workout.


As always, everyone’s personal preferences differ. I would have to say, if you are performing any type of flexibility stretches before or after a workout and it begins to decrease your muscle strength or you begin to feel pain. Stop! Listen to your body. It’s telling you something. Something that is very important. 

Jenny Lee
Jenny Lee


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